august 22/RUN

3 miles
running wherever there’s an uncluttered path*
69 degrees
humidity: 89%
dew point: 66

*Ran towards the river, was almost hit by 2 bikes (one was their fault, the other mine). The path was so crowded that I couldn’t avoid people so I crossed over to the grassy stretch between edmund and the river road. Too crowded. Ran on Edmund. Too crowded. Finally turned right on 42nd and ran through the neighborhood, west on 42nd st, north on 43rd ave, around Howe school, east on 37th st, north on 45th ave, west on 35th st.

Hot and too crowded. Oh well, still good to get out there. Woke up this morning from an anxiety dream: I needed to perform in a concert in a town an hour away. I couldn’t find a black shirt. Most of the dream consisted of me frantically searching through all my clothes, which had been carefully folded by my dead mom until I threw them all around the room. No black shirt. A messy mountain of clothes.

Listened to a playlist as I ran. It helped a little. Could still hear the crickets buzzing. It’s LOUD bug season. When I reached Howe, someone was racing a remote control car on the street. I’m glad I was running on the sidewalk! I never saw who was doing it. I imagined a young boy, but it could have been a man or a young girl, I guess.

Listening to Teenage Kicks on the Current radio station this morning as I write this entry. I like this line from Prince’s “Pop Life”: everybody needs a thrill/we all got a space to fill.

Found this bit of wisdom on twitter from Dana Levin the other day. I love the poetry people on twitter.

Hot tip: It’s great to mull the context that gives birth to a poem, but if you start revising based on this context rather than on the gifts (often unexpected) of the material—language, image, tone, etc—your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations.

In this same thread, a John Ashbery passage from his poem flow chart is mentioned:

So one can lose a good idea
by not writing it down, yet by losing it one can have it: it nourishes other asides
it knows nothing of

This makes me think of same great advice Danez Smith gave in a poetry workshop I attended. They talked about the original idea for a poem as the bay leaf that seasons the poem but that you take out before serving.

I’m also thinking about something Mary Oliver said in her interview with Krista Tippet for On Being. Just as Dana Levin ends with “your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations,” Oliver suggests that without empathy/feeling your poem is only reporting, a field guide. Too much context/explanation distracts (or detracts?) from feeling and experiencing the poem.

august 21/RUN

2.25 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/hill x 2
73 degrees

A warmer morning. Can’t remember anything that I thought about, which is nice. I like getting lost. Ran one of my new regular routes through the neighborhood, then closer to the river. No tunnel of trees today. I hope that when it gets colder, less people will run so I can run on the trail without worrying too much about getting too close to people.

sound of the morning

At the start of my run, on the sidewalk north on 43rd, I heard the beep beep beep beep beep of a truck backing up. At first I couldn’t tell where the truck was, then I noticed a U-Haul parking in front of a house. How many beeps? At least a dozen. I guess they were struggling to parallel park.

fall is coming!

Turning the corner from 32nd st to Edmund, I noticed it: one of the trees that glows yellow in the fall is changing already. The yellow is creeping in, slowly. I love tracking the changing colors in the fall!

I don’t remember hearing many birds or bugs. No music blasting from bike speakers or people talking on the phone. No clickity-clacks from roller skiers or bike bells dinging. I do remember hearing the distinctive plink plink of an acorn bouncing on the ground and the hum of at least one machine at the construction site above the tunnel of trees.

Currently I’m working on turning my work memorizing poems into writing exercises/memoir. And I’ve been thinking about how useful and wonderful it is to record myself reciting a poem and then listening back to the words, which are often correct but sometimes wrong in unexpected ways. I found a tweet yesterday, which doesn’t totally fit with this memorizing but connects:

transcriptions rly show how much of our talk is dirt & gravel, how clear thoughts have to be panned for like gold

yet all the human pleasure is in the gravel, in the second-guessing & laughter & short sighs, the repetitions & amens, the silences where thoughts turn & settle

One bit of “gravel” I find in my recitation recordings is when I struggle to remember a word or phrase or line. Such delight in hearing the moment of remembering and the struggle to achieve it! What would it look like to transcribe that into a poem, I wonder?

Finally, here’s another poem about listening that I discovered a few days ago.

Listening/ Elizabeth Hoover

When I am in a restaurant or bar, I watch
women listening. They listen to men talk
about unfinished basements, art projects,
or how the land is very rocky around Sudbury.
I admire how women are resourceful in making
themselves comfortable while listening. One
cradles her chin in her palm, her spine
a deep c-curve. Another woman sits
very upright and sips her martini
while following the zigzag of waiters.
The woman to my left appears to be using
the time to memorize how her hands look
in case they are lost or stolen and she needs
to describe them to the police while a man explains
that industrial strawberry farming has created
a monoculture. The woman with perfect posture
is receiving directions to a trailhead
in another country. The woman
with the swan-neck spine stealthily adjusts
her belt as a man informs her Lolita
is really an allegory about art-making. After all
these years of listening, I am so good at it that I can
even listen to the women’s listening. It sounds
like a wind over a great plain laid to waste
by a retreating army or the pages of a book
abandoned on the sand by a swimmer
whose strong arms have taken her beyond
where waves crash so she can float and listen
to the rush of her blood, the shriek of gulls.
She can hear the gulls’ ribs creak as they inhale
before each cry. She can hear the rustle
as urchins pass over the decay they feast on.
She can hear silver on the sides of fish
and the loneliness of an uncoupled eel. She listens
to her own sounds as well: the current
of her nerves slowing, her hair lifting
and floating away, the sacs in her lungs
reaching greedy mouths to the sky.

At first, I wasn’t planning to memorize this poem but now, re-reading it, I’m thinking I will. I love the descriptions of the women listening to the mansplaining–especially the woman examining her hands in case they are stolen–and the listening to women listening–especially the swimmer in the sea.

august 20/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + trail*
73 degrees
78% humidity

*36th st, east/47th ave, north/32nd st, east/48th ave, south/edmund, north/32nd, east/river road trail, south/38th st, west/edmund, north/36th st, east/river road, south/bottom of hill/river road, north

Getting a bit burned out with the usual running routes. It’s difficult adjusting to the road being open again. So much time spent thinking/worrying about keeping distance from other people. Harder, also, because I’m getting to the stage of being over summer and heat and humidity and biting, extra itchy bugs. Poor Delia the dog is suffering from her annual August allergies. School, albeit online, is starting soon for the kids–the first year of high school and the last. Anxiousness is in the air.

Still glad I got out there and ran. I’m sure I glanced at the river at some point, but I can’t remember anything about it. Noticed the amphitheater of green air and the ancient boulder with 4 stones stacked on top. Encountered one walker in the tunnel of trees, but we were almost 6 feet apart and I passed her quickly. Had to bypass the Welcoming Oaks to avoid some dogs with their humans.

Recited “Babel” for the first mile, then “Writing a Poem” for some of the second. Too distracted for any reciting of “Push the Button, Hear the Sound.”

Gross Noise of the Day: running south on 47th ave, approaching 34th st, I heard a man vigorously coughing and hacking and clearing his throat in a house nearby. First reaction was yuck!, then, is he okay?

Great Noise of the Day: running north on Edmund, almost to the river, I heard Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart” blasting out of a bike’s speakers. Nice!

Anything else? More acorns, lots of Monarch butterflies, at least one roller skier, dogs. No little kids on bikes or circling turkey vultures or honking geese or frantic squirrels. I’m sure I heard a leaf blower, a lawn mower, a roaring plane. No fragments of conversation to wonder about. 2 plugged up ears, making hearing hard.

loaded gun

Running down the hill, 2.5 miles into my run, I started thinking about COVID-19 and had these strange thoughts about how someone who was infected could decide to deliberately cough on me and how breath becomes deadly, our bodies become weapons. Then the phrase “loaded gun” popped into my head–our bodies as loaded guns–and I remembered the poem by Emily Dickinson:

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun (764)/ EMILY DICKINSON

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Opon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through –

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –

august 19/RUN

2.5 miles
43rd ave, south/32nd st, east/river road trail, south/winchell trail, south/river road trail, north/edmund, north
68 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Another good run, although I wish the road was still closed to cars. I’m managing to keep distance from other runners, but I’m encountering them more on the trail. I suppose it’s good for me to loosen up a little on my extreme avoidance of others? Ran north on 43rd, then right on 32nd. Passed the half-finished house on the corner of 32nd and 46th. Abandoned for almost a year now, I think. Such a big house; another one of the ugly beasts taking over the neighborhood. Out of scale and over-priced. I wonder how long it will be before someone finishes it.

Ran past the aspen eyes and the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy, now filled with cars. In-person school begins there in less than 2 weeks. Ran through the tunnel of trees–all clear! Forgot to check if there were stones stacked on the ancient boulder at the top of the hill. Also forgot to greet the Welcoming Oaks. Didn’t hear any water dripping off of the limestone ledge in the ravine. Remembered to look at the river. What a river! Was able to admire it on the river road path up above, then a little closer, down below on the Winchell trail. A glitter of glints. Gorgeous.

Today I decided to take my chances and run on the lower trail for a short, 1/2 mile stretch, between 38th and Folwell. Success! Didn’t encounter another runner, walker, stroller, or dog. Hooray! I love this trail and how it’s perched halfway down the hill (or bluff? or gorge?), farther from the road, closer to the river.

Noise of the Day: the steady, unrelenting drop drop drop of acorns from the oak trees. So many acorns! Thumping and thudding to the ground. How many of these acorns fell and how many of them were thrown by squirrels? I thought I remembered there being a lot of acorns dropping early last year, but when I searched through my log I didn’t find any mention of acorns until September. When I googled it, I found an MPR article about acorns dropping as early as June because tiny wasps were laying their eggs in them. The most likely cause of early acorns is that the tree is stressed–too hot or too cold, too much rain, not enough. These stressed, “aborted” acorns are green. Checking with Scott, the acorns falling around us this August are brown, which means they’re full grown.

Right after finishing my run, I recited “Writing a Poem.” I thought I did a great job reciting it–aside from the pauses when I felt self-conscious as I encountered other walkers–but listening back to the recording, I messed up several words. I think it’s such a useful practice to record myself reciting these poems and checking the lines. If I didn’t check I might never notice I’m getting it wrong. I’m fascinated by how I am sure I am thinking/saying one thing, when I’m actually saying something else.

Writing a poem, August 19

One line I’m still trying to figure out: “history’s dental chair”?

I like the rhyme: “frantic and still” with “until only spit oozes” and “spills over” and “fills cavities”.

august 18/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
62 degrees

Another nice morning for a run. Low 60s, not too much wind, sunny. Ran on the trail and spent a lot of time focused on avoiding other people. I remember looking down at the river near the steps at 38th st, but I don’t remember anything about it. With all the sun, it must have been sparkling. Didn’t hear any rowers on the river but I bet there were some somewhere. Maybe closer to the bridge? No turkeys in turkey hollow again today. No geese or ducks or woodpeckers. At some point, I heard a crow.

Most distinctive sound I remember hearing while running: the plink–or was it plunk?–of small acorns bouncing on the road.

Most distinctive sound I remember hearing while walking: the loud, uncovered sneeze of a woman inside a house somewhere on my block.

Recited the first part of Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s “Writing a Poem” as I ran. Thought about trying to write a poem while unable to block out an annoying noise as Bernadette Mayer’s exercise in “Please Add to this List”: Attempt writing in a state of mind that seems least congenial. There weren’t any annoying noises that I remember today. No leaf blowers or roaring planes or honking cars or zooming motorcycles or walkers whose voices cut through everything or slowly approaching runners or dog collars clanging or kids with high-pitched whistles that blow them over and over and over again.

Right after finishing my run, I took out my phone and recorded myself reciting it. Too many errors–heavy instead of giant machine, mixing up helpless and hopeless. Need more practice memorizing. Probably the most interesting thing about this recording is the cicada’s buzzing in the background. So loud! I don’t remember hearing them.

Writing a Poem, August 18

Let the Wonder Always Win

Last night, I attended a virtual book launch for Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “World of Wonders.” I think she’s my favorite poet. Ross Gay (who is also amazing) was interviewing her. He asked about how she balances a love of wonder with sadness, grief, and rage. She said something about how she’s not happy or joyful all the time; she feels a lot of sadness and rage, but she always lets the wonder win. I love that line. It might be my new mantra.

Earlier in the talk, she also discussed how, as young kids, we are always exclaiming, excitedly calling out, Look! Look at the flower! or look at that cloud, shaped like a horse! Later on in life, we forget or are too self-conscious of that enthusiasm for wondering. We need to reclaim our love of exclaiming. Yes!

This makes me think of this poem (one of my favorites) by Maggie Smith:

Poem Beginning with a Retweet/ Maggie Smith

If you drive past horses and don’t say horses
you’re a psychopath. If you see an airplane
but don’t point it out. A rainbow,
a cardinal, a butterfly. If you don’t
whisper-shout albino squirrel! Deer!
Red fox! If you hear a woodpecker
and don’t shush everyone around you
into silence. If you find an unbroken
sand dollar in a tide pool. If you see
a dorsal fin breaking the water.
If you see the moon and don’t say
oh my god look at that moon. If you don’t smell
smoke and don’t search for fire.
If you feel yourself receding, receding,
and don’t tell anyone until you’re gone.

august 17/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees

Ran south on the river road trail, right above the river. I glanced at it a few times but wasn’t able to see anything specific–I know I was looking at the river, framed by trees, but I can’t say what color it was or whether or not it was shimmering. No turkeys in turkey hollow today.

5 Sounds I Heard As I Ran

  1. The repeated thud, sometimes dull, sometimes sharp, of acorns hitting the pavement on Edmund.
  2. The far off buzzing of a leaf blower or lawn mower or some type of machine.
  3. The electric buzz of cicadas, growing louder then softer then louder again.
  4. The roaring of a chainsaw, then the crack of a big branch hitting the ground.
  5. A biker approaching from behind, blasting opera music from the speaker of their bike.

A noisy morning with lots of buzzing. In the above list, I wanted to give straight description without judgment. Here’s a list with judgment:

Ranking of Sounds Heard on Run, from Least to Most Annoying

  • Gently falling acorns onto the boulevard
  • A cicada serenade
  • Roaring chainsaws and cracking branches
  • Relentlessly droning leaf blowers, buzzing in my brain
  • Over-wrought opera singers ruining my calm, quiet mood

Speaking of buzzing, here is the first part of the new listen poem I started memorizing today:

Writing a Poem/ Shirley Geok-lin Lim

The air is buzzing. Some one near by
is operating a giant machine. He’s scrubbing
the just sold building with a high-
powered hose. None of us are listening,

although we are each hopeless before
the dizz-dizz-dizz. It it was a monstrous
radiated beetle, we couldn’t be more
helpless. It’s eating up the hours

as if they were the sweet nectar of day,
which they are. It is impossible
to think or write.

Noises While Running that I Feel Helpless to Avoid

  • leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chainsaws
  • howling wind
  • a walker talking loudly into their phone
  • a runner talking loudly to another runner
  • a biker talking loudly to another biker
  • a speeding motorcycle
  • the shuffling footsteps of a runner, approaching too slowly
  • a honking horn

Some days I want to listen more, other days I wish I could block out all of the noise.

Here’s a sound I’d like to identify. I heard this bird singing (or calling out) in my backyard yesterday afternoon. What is it?

What bird makes this sound?

august 16/RUN

1.8 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd, east/around Cooper school/32nd, east/edmund, north/36th st, west
70 degrees

A quick run through the neighborhood this morning. Decided to run around Cooper school once as part of the route to see how much distance it would add. Noticed how much shorter the east/west blocks seem compared to the north/south ones.

so loud!

Yesterday, running and reciting “Babel” I mentioned how quiet it was. Not today! So loud. Buzzing cicadas, humming crickets. Right before I started my run, I heard, in quick succession, a kid yelling, a man hocking a loogies, a women violently sneezing. Yuck! Glad they were all inside somewhere and that I was running away from them.

After I finished, went out on a walk with Scott and Delia the dog. Unintentionally, we walked the exact route I ran, minus the loop around Cooper. Right next to the Aspen eyes, on the edge of the Minnehaha Academy parking lot, we witnessed about half a dozen monarch butterflies fluttering by. Scott got some video:

august 15/RUN

3.3 miles
winding down to the river, pt 2*
62 degrees

*A slight variation on yesterday’s route: 43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/45th ave, south/36th st, east/47th ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river road, north/bottom of hill/river road, south

What a nice morning for a run! Cooler and calm. Sunny. Relaxed. Ran through the neighborhood and ended by running up and down the hill near the Welcoming Oaks twice. Saw some bikers, runners, and walkers. Heard some music blasting from a bike’s speaker but couldn’t identify the song–the biker was going too fast and/or the doppler effect was distorting the music too much. Also heard the quiet, gentle hum of crickets. So many acorns littering the sidewalk! No spazzy squirrels in sight. Are they too busy up in the trees? No roller skiers or rowers. No Daily Walker or tall, old guy in short running shorts.

Recited “Babel” several times as I ran. Struggled with the word blustered in the line, “the trees/blustered to howls.” Throught about the order of this line: is it, “the tesla bees/whine loudly to the shocked air” or “the tesla bees/loudly whine to the shocked air”? Is the second not grammatically correct, or is it just preference? The first seems better, so why am I sometimes drawn to reciting the second? It felt strange to be reciting this poem, especially the first line, “My God, it’s loud down here,” when it isn’t loud at all this morning. It’s calm, peaceful, with only a quiet hum.

Thought about reciting the poem as I ran up the hill for the second time, but I wimped out. I should really try doing this sometime soon. Instead, I recited it a few seconds after I stopped running, as I walked home, still out of breath. Just like I had struggled with the word blustered as I ran, I couldn’t remember it now. I like how I captured this moment of forgetting and then remembering: blustered!–you can almost hear the exclamation point in my voice. I thought I knew this poem better than yesterday, but I still struggled with some wrong words and the flow seemed off. It feels like I can’t quite connect with this poem or the poet’s writing style. Will I ever? From where does this lack of connection come?

Babel, August 15

august 14/RUN

2.4 miles
winding down towards the river*
77 degrees
humidity: 88%
dew point: 70

*43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/47th ave, south/edmund, north/32nd st, east/river road trail, south (including tunnel of trees)/36th st, west

Inspired by Scott and his winding routes through the neighborhood, I decided to try one of own. It’s a nice change of pace to run on different streets after running the same way for so long. I’m surprised this route isn’t a bit longer.

When I reached the river, I noticed Dave the Daily Walker up ahead! I haven’t seen him for months–since April or May, I think. So glad he’s doing okay. I’ve wondered about him.

Ran through the tunnel of trees. Dark and thick and wonderful. Encountered one runner but we both moved over as far as we could–almost 6 feet apart, I think.

I’m pretty sure I glanced at the river quickly. I can’t remember if I heard the rowers today, or was it yesterday? Yesterday.

I recited “Babel” several times as I ran. I know it better today than yesterday. The most awkward lines:

the electrical bugs so loud
the air is stunned, windy the trees’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings
of magpies?

Windy the trees’ applause? That sounds strange to me. I tried to find some audio of Johnson reading the poem but I couldn’t. I don’t feel like I can properly deliver that line yet because the windy the tree part doesn’t quite make sense. Favorite bits? “the trees blustered to howls,” the “huckster cackle,” and “the air stupid with the shrieks of devils,–of angels,–“

I recorded myself reciting it when I returned home. I’m finding this poem to be awkward to read. Some of the lines, like the awkward one about windy the leaves’ applause, are very difficult to keep flowing. I struggle to keep the tone of a question throughout the long sentence. I’d like to try recording myself reciting this while I run and/or walk? Would it be flow better or worse?

Babel, August 14


august 13/RUN

3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road trail, south/edmund, north
72 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 69

Warmer today. Started slow and got faster each mile. Ran north on 43rd again, noticing more of the familiar houses. I run on the right side so I miss running by one of my other favorite 43rd avenue houses on the left side: the one with the 2 lion statues guarding their stoop, at the edge of the sidewalk. For every season, they wear different visors. Since the pandemic began, they’ve been wearing masks–or at least they have the last time I checked, which was a month ago. In the spring, they wear bunny ears, in July, spangled stars, at Christmas-time, reindeer antlers. I know they do something for Halloween too, but I can’t remember what.

Ran past the field at Cooper school, the Aspen eyes, the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy, filling up with cars. Decided to try running on the trail through the tunnel of trees again. No problem! Forget to check out the amphitheater of green air, but did notice the construction trailer–where they’re doing the sewer work–and how, on this side, it was heavily tagged with graffiti. I was moving too fast to read what it said, but it looked cool with the big, brightly colored block letters. Heard the voices of 2 women behind me somewhere. So loud! Was it the two runners I passed–and managed to get 6 feet of distance from because I ran up the side of a small hill–right before entering the tunnel of trees? Ran through the welcoming oaks and above the ravine. Wondered why I wasn’t hearing any water gushing through the pipe, over the limestone ledge, down to the river after all of the rain yesterday. Stayed on the trail until 42nd st when I turned around but was too busy looking out for other people to notice the river. It is often difficult for me to see when a person is ahead–most of the time I can, but I have to be extra careful for those times when I can’t. Haven’t run into anyone yet!

Tried reciting the poem I started memorizing this morning: “Babel” by Kimberly Johnson. I thought I had it memorized, but I got hopelessly stuck halfway through. I thought about briefly stopping and looking up the words on my phone but didn’t.

My God, it’s loud down there, so loud the air
is rattled. Who with the hissing of trees,
the insect chatter, can fix devotion

on holy things, the electrical bugs
so loud the air is stunned, windy the leaves’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings

of magpies? Who with their whispered psalm
can outvoice their huckster cackle, their huckster cackle, their huckster cackle!?

Stuck. I knew the next line had something to do with trees but no matter how hard I concentrated, patiently waiting for the words to appear, they didn’t. When I got home, I checked and, of course!, the line is:

can outvoice their huckster cackle, the trees
blustered to howls while the tesla bees

whined loudly to the shocked air?

Yes! How could I have forgotten those howls or the tesla bees? Are tesla bees a thing? I looked it up and aside from a mention of Nikola Tesla’s idea that women would soon rule the world as “Queen Bees” and references to the “tesla of honey” on a beekeeping forum, I couldn’t find anything. I asked Scott and he wondered if it could be a reference to the buzzing sound a Tesla coil makes. When I looked up, “Tesla coil sound” I found an article about a band that gets the Tesla coil to “sing”. Wow.

Here’s the full poem:

Babel/ Kimberly Johnson

My God, it’s loud down here, so loud the air
is rattled. Who with the hissing of trees,
the insect chatter, can fix devotion

on holy things, the electrical bugs
so loud the air is stunned, windy the leaves’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings

of magpies? Who with their whispered psalm
can outvoice their huckster cackle, the trees
blustered to howls while the tesla bees

whine loudly to the shocked air? O who
can think of heaven in such squall, shrill wind
of trees, magpie wings, and throats in fracas,

the bluebottle static, the air stupid
with the shrieks of devils,— of angels,—
who in such squall can think of anything

but heaven?

I love this poem and all it’s chatter. I was thinking about it this morning as I drank my coffee, sitting in the chair I always sit in while drinking my coffee with all the windows open, listening to all the birds and the low insistent hum of the crickets. So much noise!

august 12/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/hill loop
71 degrees

Just updated to the latest version of WordPress (5.5) and they have changed the interface again. Initial reaction: why do we need this change? I’ll give it some time.

Writing this, an hour after my run, the sky is dark, foreboding. Looked at the radar on the weather app and bright yellow and orange and red are approaching. A heavy storm. Hopefully not too heavy.

Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog first, then went for a shorter run. Listened to a playlist and don’t remember much. Noticed the house on 43rd that used to have the best Halloween decorations–a light/sound show with Toccata and Fugue, a coffin opening up to reveal a skeleton, a graveyard with bloody heads–until the cool people moved away. The new owners have a large cross hanging on their front door and have lined their path with cutesy flowers. Yes, I guess I am bitter.

The run was nice. Noticed lots of cars at Minnehaha Academy–looked it up, student are returning to campus on August 27th. Wow. Also looked up tuition for high schoolers: $23, 980 a year! Forgot to notice the Aspen eyes. Ran on the sidewalk past the trees that, in less than two months will be glowing yellow, and my favorite trio of some of the biggest cottonwood trees I’ve ever seen. Ran past the house that seemed abandoned for almost a year until suddenly it wasn’t and now they’ve been doing minor renovations all spring and summer. Switched over to other side of Edmund and ran right above where they’re working on the sewers. When I reached 36th I turned left onto the river road and ran down the hill until I reached the bottom. Turned around and ran back up it. Saw some bikers, runners, walker. Any roller skier? Don’t think so.

Before I run I noticed the quiet buzz of bugs. The buzz didn’t sound electric. Was it crickets? Speaking of electric buzz, I found another useful site about cicadas with this harsh and haunting description:

Nymph FoodRoot juices of pine and oak
Adult Food Adults do not eat. After mating they die.

When You Walk Over the Earth/ Katie Farris 

When you walk over
the earth, it asserts
itself: “Here. Here.

Here,” it says to your
feet. You must reckon
with the earth, though it enters

you less. The sky always
has its hand in you,
as if you were a puppet,

through your ears down
your throat into your
lungs—and with the tips

of its fingers there, it caresses
every capillary, every blood cell,
until they blush.

After initially posting this entry, I sat at my desk and listened to the gentle rain falling and decided I needed to add something more here. “A Short Story of Falling” by Alice Oswald is a favorite poem of mine–I should memorize it. A few years ago, I turned it into an homage poem about crunching snow.

A Short Story of Falling/ ALICE OSWALD

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

And here is a recording of the rain, just outside my window in the front room:

Falling Water, August 12


august 11/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow loop
63 degrees

Beautiful morning! Calm, sunny, not too warm or crowded. Was able to run on the path above the river heading south. Encountered a few runners and bikers but was able to keep my distance. The river was glowing white, over half the sky green. Passed the tall old guy with the long legs made longer by old school running shorts and a torso made shorter by a tucked-in tank top–or should I call it a muscle shirt? The alliteration of tucked-in tank top sounds better. Passed the ridge above the oak savanna, the steps at 38th street, the bench near Folwell, the ancient boulder at 42nd. Crossed over by Becketwood to the paved trail on the other side of the road, then ran down the hill on Edmund to turkey hollow. No turkeys today. Ran up 47th, back to the river road, on the narrow grassy stretch between Becketwood and 42nd that Scott and I have named the gauntlet, and then back over to edmund.

Between 42nd and 36th, many of the houses on Edmund are modern and big–lots of huge windows and intensely colored doors (red, lime green) and inviting decks, funky chandeliers, and futura-fonted house numbers. From ages 5 to 9, I lived in a modern house in Hickory, North Carolina–2 1/2 levels, with open staircases you could hang from by your legs and that had hiding places behind them, several balconies, both inside on the top floor, and outside, above the private front patio, a stone fireplace you could walk behind, cubby holes, a screened-in porch off the kitchen on the second floor overlooking the neighbor’s pool, huge light fixtures that glowed like ghostly heads at night, awesomely 70’s zig zag wallpaper in the kitchen, a family room that could fit a 20 foot christmas tree. I loved that house and all of its quirks. I wonder, what quirks do the houses I ran by (and almost every day for the last 5 months) contain?

sound: buzzing bugs

Every August, there are still birds chirping and cooing and trilling, but they are harder to hear because of the relentless electric buzz of the bugs. Cicadas. There are 2 types of cicadas: those that appear every year (dog day) and those that emerge from underground in large numbers every 13-17 years (periodical). I just learned that in Minnesota we only ever get the dog day kind. And I am glad after reading about how many periodical cicadas can emerge, covering cars, sidewalks, and emitting obnoxious noises! I could hear their power line buzz as I ran. I don’t like the sound as much as the black capped chickadee’s call or the pew pew pew of the cardinal, but it doesn’t bother me. Whenever I think about cicadas, I remember my introduction to them: the 1986 movie, Lucas, which is set during a summer when a brood of periodical cicadas are emerging from the ground….Reading an article from the Smithsonian about how weird they are, I discovered zombie cicadas:

In recent years, researchers have unearthed peculiar and sometimes horrifying relationships between cicadas and fungi. Massospora fungi infect cicadas and hijack their bodies. The fungi can even synchronize to the cicada’s life cycle, staying dormant until the cicada is ready to emerge. Once active, they take over the bottom half of the cicada’s body while somehow keeping the cicada alive. The infected cicada flies away, spreading spores that infect future generations (Source).

Also, while early Americans despised cicadas, confusing them with plagues of locusts, the ancient Greeks loved cicadas, writing odes about them.

[the cry of the cicada]/ Matsuo Basho

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die

august 10/RUN

3.1 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/33rd st, east/river road trail, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
67 degrees
humidity: 80%

Non-stop thunder and lightening for most of the night. Wild. Unsettling to the dog, but no damage or power outages. This morning everything was wet and a darker (but not an ominous dark) green.

Ran north on 43rd until 32nd then turned right. I think this is my new usual route. Ran on 32nd to edmund, right before the river, and ran a block until crossing at 33rd to enter the trail. I decided today I would try to run the tunnel of trees and hope there weren’t too many people when I reached the narrowest parts. Success! Didn’t encounter anyone.

Ran past the old stone steps, past the concrete wall/ overlook/ bench that Delia likes to jump on, past the four barriers (2 walls, 2 fences), past the amphitheater of green air (the spot where the trees open up slightly to create wide space surrounded by trees, blocking out the sky but still feeling uncrowded), past the spot on the trail where you can just see the top of the hill. Beautiful! I had forgotten how much I love this stretch of the trail. Above the forest, on the edge of a ridge, looking out at endless layers of green with no floor and no sky. Tucked below the road, hidden behind a wall and a fence. Dark and mysterious. Quiet. Enough time alone to gain some peace, not enough to feel afraid (of critters* or lurking humans).

*Speaking of critters, I have seen, earlier this year in March, a coyote run down into the tunnel of trees. I was not running, but walking and was across the road. And yesterday, a jogger reported seeing a black bear near the Summit Monument overlooking the river on the east side close to the trail that’s part of one of my frequent (in non-COVID times) routes: the Ford loop! One more, less scary one: at least twice, while walking around the neighborhood, Scott and I saw an albino squirrel.

After the tunnel of trees, I ran through the welcoming oaks and above the ravine. I was surprised to not hear any water rushing out of the sewer pipe. Ran past the oak savanna–too many leaves to see anything, past the steps at 38th street, past the bench on the dirt path that links two steep hills each winding back down to the Winchell trail. Encountered some bikers who didn’t even try to move over for me and when I moved off the edge of the path to give them room, they biked even closer. Did this happen, or did it seem like it did because of my bad vision and lack of depth perception? People always seem too close to me with my messed up macular.

As I ran, I tried to recite “Push the button, hear the sound” again. I made it through several lines, but became distracted as I tried to avoid other people. It’s hard to recite poems and get lost in the words when you’re having to look out for other runners. Thinking about the poem and it’s refrain, Listen and can you hear?, I thought about what I’d like others to listen to by the river and what I wonder if they can hear:

Listen to the gravel crunching on the trail.
Can you hear the electric buzz of the cicadas, relentless and rumbling under everything?
Can you hear the rowers on the river?
Listen to the roller skier’s ski poles striking the ground.
Can you hear the poles clickity-clack or do they just clack, or only click?
Listen to the doppler effect on the bike’s speakers.
Can you hear the talk radio host yelling through someone’s phone?
Listen to the pileated woodpecker laughing at us.
Can you hear that circle of light on the surface of river inviting you in?
Can you hear your shadow running beside you?
Listen to the oaks exhaling.
Can you hear your lost innocence?
Can you still hear your mom’s voice? Her laugh? The way she said your name?
Can you hear the asphalt buckling?
Listen to “Black Wizard Wave” by Nur-d.

Earlier this morning, before heading out for my run, I came across–and not for the first time–Walt Whitman’s wonderful “Song of the Open Road”:

from Song of the Open Road/ Walt Whitman

3
You air that serves me with breath to speak! 
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape! 
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers! 
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides! 
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me. 

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges! 
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships! 

You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs! 
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards! 
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much! 
You doors and ascending steps! you arches! 
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings! 
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me, 
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me. 

5
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines, 
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute, 
Listening to others, considering well what they say, 
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, 
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me. 
I inhale great draughts of space, 
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine. 

I am larger, better than I thought, 
I did not know I held so much goodness. 


august 9/RUN

3.1 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
77 degrees
humidity: 80%
dew point: 70

Much warmer this morning. Still managed a 5k without stopping. As I ran down 32nd toward the river I thought about how glad I was that they had closed the road for the sewer work at 32nd instead of 33rd–that way I can run on a long block of the river road without worrying about cars. Then, when I reached the river, I saw that they had moved the road closure ahead to 33rd. No more running on the river road. Bummer.

Was able to run on the trail above the river from 36th to 42nd! Heard some rowers, saw some shining water. Glanced at the empty benches. Don’t remember hearing any birds or crunching on any acorns–they’re covering many of the sidewalks in the neighborhood. No roller skiers or music blasting from bike speakers. No big groups of runners or bikers.

Recited “Push the Button” one time and thought about the constant refrain throughout the poem, “Listen to the…” “Can you hear the…?” I’m curious about how Mort decided which things she wanted us to listen to and which things she wondered if we could hear:

Listen to…

  • the lorikeet’s whistling song
  • the ground giddy with thirst
  • the dog shit on the lawns, murderous water boatmen skimming the green pond
  • the casual racists in the family pub
  • the house Shiraz I drink as if it’s something’s blood
  • my fear, blooming in my chest, and how I water it
  • the noisy penguins on the ice
  • my late night online purchases
  • your half-sister hissing to her friends at 2 am
  • the panic in their emojis
  • the utter indifference of the stars
  • “The Trout” by Schubert
  • the blackbird’s chirpy song
  • that waltz by Paganini
  • the stage as we walk clear off the front of it

Can you hear…?

  • the call of the mynah bird
  • flamingos in the water
  • your small heart next to mine and the house breathing as it holds us
  • the chainsaw start
  • the roses rioting on the trellis
  • the sleepless girls in Attercliffe
  • the aspirin of the sun dissolving
  • your grandfather’s lost childhood
  • the suburban library shutting, the door closing, the books still breathing
  • your father lighting his first cigarette
  • the foxes mating all the way to oblivion
  • me holding you, closer than my life

And two variations on “Can you hear…?”:

O, can you hear the budget tightening?
Can you hear that, Alfie?

I’ll have to study this list some more, I guess, to find a pattern, if there is one. What’s the difference between the command, “listen” and the question, “can you hear?”

Here’s a quick draft of my homage to Mort’s original poem:

Listen to the black capped chickadee’s 2 note song.
Can you hear him posing a question to the gorge?
Can you hear the honking geese overhead?
Can you hear your lungs grasping for air
and the green leaves thickening as they hold us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the tight weave
of the savanna’s oak unraveling?
It’s August, thick, crowded. Listen
to the path, cluttered with acorns. Listen
to the sewer stink near the ravine, the sex-crazed
gnats swarming the hill. Can you hear
the virus spreading through the neighborhood?
Can you make a noise like a panicked rabbit? There are
sounds your tweet lacks names for.

august 7/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
68 degrees
humidity: 83%/ dew point: 66

Decided to run to the trestle and back for the first time with the road open to traffic. Definitely not as relaxing. I had to get closer than 6 feet to 2 or 3 runners as I passed them. I don’t think I’ll be running above the river that much this late summer and fall. Oh well.

I got to see the river for awhile. Didn’t hear any rowers or see any roller skiers. I did smell the sewer above the rowing club and ran through a dark green stretch of the trail.

Tried reciting “Push the button” while I ran. Very difficult as I focused more on avoiding people and staying cool.

Heard some rustling below me as I ran above the river. Was it rushing water or wind through the trees? Decided on wind.

Don’t remember seeing any squirrels or changing leaves or acorns on the path. No Daily Walker. No black-capped chickadees or cardinals or pileated woodpeckers.

Heard at least 3 different people talking above me on the lake street bridge as I ran under it. Saw a mini peloton zooming by on the road.

Right after finishing, as I walked home, I recited the entire poem I’ve been working oA. I didn’t even care that there were a lot of people around who could see me talking into my phone.

Push the buttons, hear the sound/Helen Mort
August 7

august 6/RUN

2.3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/edmund, south/river road, north/river road, south
68 degrees

Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog before heading out for a shorter run. During the walk, we could feel fall slowly coming. Cooler air, a red leaf peeking through the green on a neighbor’s fence:

As I ran north on 43rd, I started reciting “Push the button, hear the sound.” Ran past the abandoned house, growing a forest of new maples, past the house with the easter island head by the front door, past the house that used to have my favorite halloween decorations until it was sold:

Past Cooper School, past the aspen eyes, past the red leaf that Scott, Delia and I had walked by an hour before. Ran for a block on the river road and then turned back onto Edmund. It took me almost a mile and a half to finish reciting the poem.

Ran down and up the hill by the Welcoming Oaks twice. The second time, on my way up, I encountered a biker biking with no hands on the handlebars singing at the top of his lungs–not sure what song. About a month ago I encountered another biker doing this as he approached the hill. I had marveled at his effortlessness and how little he cared that he looked ridiculous. The biker today just looked ridiculous and out of control. I hope he didn’t crash into anyone as he biked down the hill.

A few minutes after I returned home, I recited the poem into my phone. I remembered most of it but forget 2 lines. I guess I need to spend another day with this poem.

Push the Button, August 6

august 5/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow loop
60 degrees

O, this morning! Cool and sunny and calm. Quiet and not too crowded. When I reached the river, I ran on the trail for a few minutes, past the oak savanna and the thick layer of trees. Before I had to cross over to the grassy boulevard because there were too many runners, I saw the beautiful river, glowing white. Also heard a very enthusiastic coxswain yelling out instructions to his crew. Ran past turkey hollow and forgot to check for turkeys–did I even glance over at the huge grassy stretch? I don’t think so. Heard some music coming out of a bike speaker–something pop-y–and obnoxious talk radio out of a runner’s smartphone. Noticed my shadow running beside me.

Memorized another chunk of my first “listen” poem and recited it while I ran. Had trouble with it during the first half of run; I was too busy trying not to twist my ankle on the uneven, rutted dirt path on the boulevard. Had better luck in the second half because I was running on the road. Thought about word choices and what she might be referencing (anything?) with “can you hear the sleepless girls of Attercliff?”

Here’s a recording of myself reciting it after I got home:

Push the button, hear the sound/ august 5

august 4/RUN

3.5 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st east/river road, south/edmund, south and turn around at 42nd st
60 degrees

Today they opened up the river road to cars again. Well, it was nice while it lasted–and it lasted much longer than I would have expected. I’m glad I ran the 2 loops yesterday. Today I ran north on 43rd to 32nd. Ran past the field at Cooper School, past the field at Minnehaha Upper Campus, past the aspen eyes, all the way to the river road. It’s still closed for the sewer work they’re doing above the tunnel of trees so I was able to run on one long block of it car-free. Turned back onto Edmund at 33rd then ran up the hill to the spot high above the river road where the river sometimes sparkles through the thick trees. Not today. Ran to 36th and turned left for a small loop past the Welcoming Oaks, down the hill beside the path above the tunnel of trees and then back up it again. At the top of the hill, kept going south on Edmund until I reached 42nd st, past Dowling Elementary School, past the house that has been posting poetry on their huge front windows, and past the huge 1980s house with the indoor pool and the extra lot that was for sale for over a year until someone finally bought the extra lot and built a super modern house on it. A strange juxtaposition. Encountered some strollers, bikers, walkers, runners, cars. Heard some Northern Cardinals and some gravel crunch crunch crunching on the side of the road. Saw my shadow.

Tried to stop thinking about how difficult this pandemic is and how to solve the problem of a daughter desperate to hang out with her friends while there’s a steep rise in cases here in Minnesota.

Began memorizing a new poem yesterday afternoon in my series on listening: Push the button, hear the sound/ Helen Mort. Recited the first third as I ran.

Listen to the lorikeet’s whistling song.
Can you hear the call of the mynah bird?
Can you hear the flamingos in the water?
Can you hear your small heart next to mine
and the house breathing as it holds us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the bones
of out neighbor’s Eucalyptus breaking?
It’s summer, high, emptied. Listen to the ground,
giddy with thirst. Listen to the dog shit
on the lawns, the murderous water boatman
skimming the green pond. Can you hear
the roses rioting on the trellis? Can you
make a noise like a cheeky monkey? There are
sounds your book lacks names for.

Confused by the line about the water boatmen so I looked it up. Water boatman is a type of insect that feeds off of scum on ponds. I made the mistake of reading more about them and the male’s “singing penis.” To attract a female, a male boatman makes a very loud (99.2 decibels) sound by rubbing his penis against his abdomen. Wow.

Recorded myself reciting the poem as I walked home after my run:

Push the Button, Hear the Sound/August 4

Geese!

Almost forgot to mention the vee of geese, high in the sky! On my post-run walk with Delia the dog, I heard them. A dozen geese flying high in the sky, an uproar of honks. Two nights ago, I heard them too. Fall is coming. Not for a while, but the signs are starting. Usually, I’m excited for these signs, but this year that excitement also carries a dread: how much longer will this pandemic last and what will it feel like in the cold and snow? How much harder will it be for others to endure when the weather isn’t nice? I’m not worried for myself, I love the winter cold, but for other members of my family who are already starting to lose it.

august 3/RUN

3.5 miles
2 loops (36th to 42nd)
62 degrees

Since they’re opening the road back up to cars any day now, I thought I would do 2 loops. Back when they closed the road in early May, I had visions of running loops all summer. I even created a loops page. But it didn’t take me long to realize that I don’t like running loops, or at least multiple loops at once. Halfway through the first loop, I start thinking about how I’m going to have to run another loop and then I think, “How am I going to do another loop?” and I usually stop early. I am often willing to stop something early when I don’t think it’s working. Sometimes this is a good thing–why torture yourself doing something you hate just because you said you’d do it? Sometimes it’s a bad thing–why is it so easy for me to stop when I don’t like it? Mostly I’m fine with my tendency to stop–probably because I usually find something to like about what I have to do so I get the things done I need to and because my willingness to stop early doesn’t reflect a lack of passion or commitment. I’m very committed to my writing and running and family and thinking/living/acting with critical awareness and care.

So–back to the point of this digression–I accept that I don’t like running loops and I don’t run them. But today, I thought I’d try something different. I ran one loop with no headphones, then one loop with a playlist.

loop one

The first loop was about a minute slower. I focused on birds (heard a black capped chickadee) and trees (especially the trees on the boulevard that lean in towards the river road offering more shade, listening in to check how heavily I was breathing) and the big boulders in the grass. I tried to stay relaxed and avoid thinking about how I was still just on the first loop and that I was planning to do another one. I checked out my shadow a few times. She was on my right side, slightly behind me. I decided the best shade was between 38th and 36th.

loop two

Before starting the second loop, I stopped to find a playlist–an older one titled, “august run.” First song: “Misery Business” by Paramore. I remember listening to this my first year of running, nine years ago. To match my foot strikes to the beat, I picked up my cadence. Didn’t think about anything or notice where I was as I ran. What a wonderful thing to get lost in the effort of moving! Lifting my knees, focusing more on driving my left leg. Swinging my arms evenly. Also listened to “Hurt Feelings” by Flight of the Concords and laughed at the lyrics, “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and thought about how much I loved this song when I was kid.

I like this idea of running one loop listening to the gorge and one loop listening to music. It might be fun to try doing one loop reciting one poem and then another loop reciting a different poem. I think I’ve tried something like this already–have I (no, but after looking through old entries, I discovered I had proposed this very idea of may 22nd). I’m glad I found this entry because in it I posted a poem I’d like to memorize: Push the button, hear the sound I think I’d like to do a series of 4 or 5 poems on listening.

Listen, the long list

I’ll have to narrow this list down to 4.

august 2/RUN

4.1 miles
ford bridge and back again + extra
64 degrees

Cooler this morning! Cool enough to wear a short-sleeved shirt instead of a tank top. Overcast, windy. Ran south on the river road to the Ford Bridge and back. Glanced briefly at the river through the trees. Heard some talk radio coming out of a runner’s smartphone as I passed them. Was it MPR? I think so. Lots of bikers, walkers, runners around. Almost passed two bikers heading up the hill between Locks and Dam #1 and the double bridge at 44th because they were biking so slowly and I had picked up my pace. Looked for turkeys in turkey hollow but didn’t see even one. No roller skiers either. Didn’t recite any poems in my head. Tried counting to four for a while and then chanting triple berries: strawberry, blueberry, raspberry. Nothing stuck. I don’t remember much about my run. No deep thoughts, but also no worries about whether or not the US or the world will ever get this pandemic under control. A strange, difficult time.

Yesterday, I had my first break from running since July 9th. Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk instead. We ended up above the Franklin hill before turning around and heading back. So relaxing to watch all the runners and bikers and roller skiers moving below us. Lots of roller skiers! We watched 3 strong, graceful, badass women powering up the hill. I love watching graceful, confident bodies in motion.

TIME FOR SERENITY, ANYONE?/ William Stafford

I like to live in the sound of water,
in the feel of mountain air. A sharp
reminder hits me: this world still is alive;
it stretches out there shivering toward its own
creation, and I’m part of it. Even my breathing
enters into the elaborate give-and-take,
this bowing to sun and moon, day or night,
winter, summer, storm, still—this tranquil
chaos that seems to be going somewhere.
This wilderness with a great peacefulness in it.
This motionless turmoil, this everything dance.

july 31/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill and back again
69 degrees

Since they’re opening up the road next week, I decided I better run on it all the way down the franklin hill before it’s too late. Another beautiful day, with less humidity! I ran for 3 miles then walked for 1/2 mile up the steep hill before running again.

At Annie Young Meadows, at the bottom of the hill, noticed a dozen tents set up–another encampment for people without homes. So awful. I hope Minneapolis figures out better housing for them before winter hits. Everyone should have a home and enough food–what a fucked up country this is.

Down at the bottom of the hill, in the bright sun, the river looked flat and hot and a dull brown.

To end the month and my series of memorized poems about vision, I decided to recite each of the 4 poems for a mile and then spend the last mile reflecting on common themes. What a nerd I am. Mile One: Before I got my eye put out; Mile Two: Natural Forces; Mile Three: I Look Up From My Book at the World Through Reading Glasses; and Mile Four: Halos. At the start of mile four, as I walked up the hill, I recited Halos into my phone and then, after I finished, I recited I Look Up.

Halos, July 31
I Look Up, July 31

During mile five, I thought about the soul and how it’s mentioned in both Dickinson (safer — guess — for just my soul/opon the window pane) and Lee (to believe the soul is/ ubiquitous like water/in our voices, our cells). Could the soul be the water within us? Not some ethereal spirit distinctive from the body but water, the very substance that makes up more than half of us (kids: 78%, men: 60%, women: 55%)? I like thinking about the soul as the most physical, substantial part of us. Of course, now as I write this, I’m thinking about Walt Whitman and “The Body Electric“:

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul, 
O I say now these are the soul!

july 30/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
68 degrees

Walking down to the end of the block before starting my run, I marveled at the slightly cool breeze and the soft sun. What a morning to be outside! Perfect for walking, slightly too warm for running. Ran south on the river road. Heard the birds–which birds? Not sure. Glanced at the river for the brief moment I was able to run on the trail. Saw my shadow. Tried to stay calm and block out the relentless worry, simmering under the surface, about pandemics and tyrants and upcoming elections. Was mostly successful.

Running past the steps at 38th street that lead to the lower trail, closer to the river, I longed for last summer when I regularly ran the 2 trails route. O, to be closer to the river, below the road on the undulating trail!

Recited the rest of Halos this morning. The rhythm of this poem doesn’t work well with running and I found it hard to keep reciting the lines in a steady flow. Lots of stopping and starting. Was this also because of the heat or the effort or my still shaky grasp of the words?

I like, whenever I wish, strolling past
the myopic me
in a window or a mirror or whatever

reflects back to believe the soul is
ubiquitous like water
in our voices, our cells.

How else, when blinded by life,
would I remember:
to the dead, we’re the ghosts?

I am not sure what he means here or what to do with souls as ubiquitous as water or the idea that we’re the ghosts to the dead. What does it mean to be a ghost?

Ghost (noun), definition (OED)

  1. The soul or spirit, as the principle of life (to give up the ghost)
  2. Philosophy.  the ghost in the machine: (Gilbert Ryle’s name for) the mind viewed as separate from the body 
  3. The soul of a deceased person, spoken of as appearing in a visible form, or otherwise manifesting its presence, to the living. (Now the prevailing sense.)
  4. A shadowy outline or semblance, an unsubstantial image (of something); hence, a slight trace or vestige, esp. in phrase  (not) the ghost of a chance.

Ghost (verb), definition (OED)

  1. to expire
  2. to haunt
  3. to scare with pretended apparitions
  4. To flit about, prowl as a ghost. Also  to ghost it.  to ghost away: to steal away like a ghost.

Ghost (Colloquial), definition (Wikipedia)

Ghosting is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of ceasing all communication and contact with a partner, friend, or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communicate made by said partner, friend, or individual.

I would like to use the phrase, “to ghost it” somewhere. Also, having stared at the word “ghost” for too long, the letters seem strange, especially the g and h right beside each other.

Thinking about being “ubiquitous like water” I was reminded of Bruce Lee and his great poem? speech? about being like water. Then I was reminded of the poem by Ed Bok Lee that I discovered yesterday and just listened to right now, “Ode to Bruce Lee” from his collection Whorled. In the poem, he says:

Boxer and cha cha champion
style of no style
teacher, waiter, philosopher, dragon

Style of no style is also in Halos. I want to think some more about what this phrase means–to him, what it might mean to me. Fluid, not trapped any identity or label or “box”, flowing like water?

Here’s a recording of me reciting Lee’s “Halos” after I returned from my run. I still have a few extra/wrong words to fix:

Halos, July 30

july 29/RUN

3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
68 degrees
humidity: 79%/ dew point: 63

Another sunny, beautiful day. I’d like it about 15-20 degrees cooler but I’ll still take today. Ran up 43rd avenue until reaching 32nd street, then ran by the field at Cooper Elementary School (named after James Fenimore Cooper) that’s been closed for as long as I’ve lived nearby (almost 6 years). Noticed a man that I’ve seen there 4 or 5 times before exercising by flipping a heavy sand bag* across the field–at least I think that’s what he does. I can’t really see in a quick glance and I don’t want to stare–both because I don’t want to be rude and don’t want to invite a conversation.

*In trying to determine what he was doing, I looked up sand bag exercises. Wow, it’s a thing. You really have to be a badass to do some of the exercises.

Ran past the aspen eyes on my way to the river road, turned left towards lake street and ran north until I reached the barricade at 29th (I think). Encountered runners, walkers, bikers. No roller skiers. Saw my shadow. Don’t remember hearing any birds–when will I start hearing the geese? I do remember hearing traffic above me on lake street and a lawn mower on the boulevard, the gravel crunching underfoot, a kid calling out to his friend. No music blasting from bike speakers or talk radio from smartphones.

Recited more from Ed Bok Lee’s “Halos” as I ran. Difficult to keep going without interruptions or to think much about the words. I definitely want to spend more time with this poem and his description of seeing strangely. Here’s the part I added this morning:

That visual impairment improves hearing,
taste, smell, touch, is mostly myth.
With it, however, I can detect

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos around bikers’ helmets;
each street lamp another pink-orange dawn.

You should see the full moon
spanning half the skyline.
I don’t mind opening a book

like a pewter Rorcshach test,
or waking up each morning
inside a fish tank of dream.

Is the idea of losing one sense enhances the others mostly a myth? For me, I’m not sure how much sharper my hearing is, but I’ve devoted a lot of time to building up my listening skills, paying attention aurally and not just visually. However, even though I’ve tried to work on my bird listening skills, I still can hardly identify any birdsongs.

I like how he moves away from good vision to interesting/ strange vision with his lines about fuzzy spirits and halos and street lamps as pink-orange dawns. I don’t see these things, but I do think I see bare branches more beautifully–their blurred edges softening the sky–than someone with “normal” sight. What else do I see strangely?

I recited the poem into my phone when I returned home:

Halos, July 29

july 28/RUN

2.4 miles
river road, south/north
70 degrees
humidity: 85%

Warmer this morning, humid, wet. When I started it was overcast but as I ran the clouds slowly parted and the sun emerged. I remember looking up at the sky, somewhere near 38th street, to see cracks in the clouds with the sun shining through–a glisk?

People on the road, but not too crowded. Two separate groups of walkers taking up most of the road, just two people each, spaced just right to make it difficult to pass on either side. I’m trying very hard to not let something like this bother me but I struggle to understand how some people are so clueless (or uncaring) about the space they take up in the world and it’s negative impact on others–bikers and other walkers, runners, needing to swing wide, veering into each other’s paths, to avoid the space hoggers.

Thankfully I didn’t spend too much time bothered by the clueless walkers. Saw the river and it was a sparkling blue, shining through the trees. Heard some people on the Winchell Trail below me. Ran down the hill that’s closed at the bottom for construction then ran up it again. Briefly glanced at the Welcoming Oaks. As I finished my run, I heard a black-capped chickadee calling.

Speaking of birds, yesterday afternoon and twice this morning, I was dive-bombed by a pair of birds. They flew right by my face, close enough that I called out, “geez!” Do they have a nest in my yard? I hope not. I would like to remain friends with the birds.

This morning, I started memorizing Ed Bok Lee’s wonderful poem about vision: Halos. Because it’s long, I only memorized 5 stanzas for this morning’s run. Also, I started a few stanzas in:

Halos/Ed Bok Lee

on my walk
home, I take off

my glasses to receive the breeze.
I like that any nearing face
is surely smiling, gorgeous;

each blurry body’s aura numinous:
style of no style, racially
ambiguous, a glob, pure

spectral incohesion. Aren’t we alll
just masses of energy and light
approaching or leaving

one another in the jumbled
future or past; sometimes stop-
ping to embrace

for a moment of decades,
before passing way
too far for sight?

I love the generous way Lee describes blurry vision here and how nearing faces are surely smiling–as opposed to seeming hostile or threatening (or clueless like the space hoggers on the river road). As I continue to lose my vision, I’m hoping to embrace–in more moments–the possible beauty and wonder of seeing faces differently, softly, without edges, as globs of energy and light.

I recorded myself reciting the poem about an hour after I returned home:

from Halos, July 29

july 27/RUN

3.2 miles
ford bridge and back
66 degrees
humidity: 80%

Sunny and cooler this morning, although it still felt warm. Lots of sweating. Ran south on the river road and thought about how they will be opening up the road to cars next week. Will the paths be much more crowded, or will many of the people who came to walk on the road stop coming altogether?

Overheard by one biker to another: “…they are told to just not give a shit.” Who are they? Who told them to not give a shit, about what, and why?

Also overheard: some music coming out of a bike speaker, talk radio out of phone speakers. Couldn’t hear it well enough to recognize any of it.

No roller skiers this morning, only bikers, walkers, runners. Don’t remember hearing any birds–how is that possible? No laughing or crying or yelling kids. No rowers. No river. No trail, only road.

Saw my shadow running beside me.

They have started clearing off the gravel they had put down on the roads to cover the tar they also put down to seal some cracks. To get rid of it, a truck drives through slowly, sweeping and spraying water. Last night on our evening walk, Scott and I witnessed a roller skier attempting to ski on the gravelly road. So awkward and difficult looking! The skier was wearing pajama pants and despite my efforts to not judge him, I did–they looked like flannel pants and it was still 80 degrees outside.

Writing this, I am sitting in the front room, looking out the window at some birds–are they robins?–who are digging up something in the grass near the part of the lawn that we have begrudgingly ceded to the ants. There are 4 of them (at least) and I can’t tell if they’re friends or enemies. Frenemies?…A few minutes later, two squirrels chasing each other…and a few minutes after that, a scuffle on the tree–annoying little squirrel claws clicking and clacking on the dry bark.

Speaking of squirrels, I was just wondering about poems featuring them–are there many and are they odes or love poems or what? I can’t ever imagine writing a love poem about a squirrel. I don’t like squirrels. As I was thinking about all of this, I suddenly remembered a poem I memorized earlier this summer that features some judge-y squirrels: What Would Root.

The poem begins:

Walking through a cathedral of oak trees
and bristlecone pines, scolded by squirrels
in priestly black, their white collars
wagging with the force of their scolding…

then later:

The squirrels,
I mentioned them already, etc, and lizards
ran down the spines of rocks like a bad feeling.

and even later:

Oh yes, I drank water from the ground; I
was wild, even then, though the squirrels scolded
me and tried to convince me I was not.

So much scolding! Doing a little more thinking, I remembered another poem I love that features squirrels–even better, squirrels being punished for their bad behavior! Forsythe Avenue by Aimee Nezhukumathil.

Tulip bulbs that a girl once planted and sprinkled with
pepper flakes have all been scratched up by brave squirrels
who strut the streets with tiny blistered mouths.

july 26/RUN

3 miles
47th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south
71 degrees
humidity: 95%/ dew point: 72

Rained last night and early this morning so everything was dripping when I went out for my run. I didn’t feel the water so much as hear it coming off the trees, trickling off the gutters, gushing through the sewer pipe above the ravine. Several puddles on the sidewalk in the usual spots. Because the rain had only recently stopped, there weren’t too many people out near the river. When I finally reached it, just past the aspen eyes, I was able to run right above it. I even saw it a few times through the thick green. Running up the hill from below the lake street bridge I kept running on the trail that veers away from the road and right above the rowing club. I haven’t run on this part of the path for months! Ended my run climbing the hill near the tunnel of trees. In other summers, when I can safely run on the trail, a mist gets trapped here after it rains in the mid-story canopy. On the road this morning, there was mist too, but not as thick. It felt strange and dreamy to run through it.

Yesterday I began reading a thesis about Lorine Niedecker and how her vision problems shaped some of her poetry. The author focuses on this poem in particular:

Wintergreen Ridge /Lorine Niedecker

Where the arrow
         of the road signs
                 lead us:

Life is natural
         in the evolution
                of matter

Nothing supra-rock
        about it
                simply

butterflies
        are quicker
                than rock

Man 
        lives hard
                on this stone perch

by sea
       imagines
               durable works

in creation here
        as in the center
               of the world

let’s say
        of art 
              We climb

the limestone cliffs
        my skirt dragging
               an inch below

the knee 
        the style before 
               the last

the last the least
         to see 
              Norway

or “half of Sussex
         and almost all
              of Surrey”

Crete perhaps
         and further:
             “Every creature

better alive
        than dead.
              men and moose

and pine trees”
       We are gawks
              lusting

after wild orchids
       Wait! What’s this? —
             sign:

Flowers
        loveliest
            where they grow

Love them enjoy them
        and leave them so
            Let’s go!

Evolution’s wild ones
        saved
            continuous life

through change
       from Time Began
            Northland’s
unpainted barns
       fish and boats
            now this —

flowering ridge
       the second one back
            from the lighthouse

Who saved it? —
       Women
            of good wild stock

Stood stolid
        before machines
           They stopped bulldozers

cold
        We want it for all time
           they said

and here it is —
        horsetails
          club mosses

stayed alive
        after dinosaurs
          died

Found:
       laurel in muskeg
          Linnaeus’s twinflower

Andromeda
       Cisandra of the bog
           pearl flowered

Lady’s tresses
       insect-eating
          pitcher plant

Bedeviled little Drosera
       of the sundews
          deadly

in sphagnum moss
       sticks out its sticky
          (Darwin tested)

tentacled leaf
       towards a fly
           half an inch away

engulfs it
       Just the touch
          of a gnat on a filament

stimulates leaf-plasma
       secretes a sticky
          clear liquid

the better to eat you
       my dear
          digest cartilage

and tooth enamel
        (DHL spoke of blood
          in a green growing thing

in Italy was it?)
       They do it with glue
          these plants

Lady’ Slipper’s glue
       and electric threads
          smack the sweets-seeker

on the head
      with pollinia
          The bee

befuddled
     the door behind him
          closed he must

go out the rear
     the load on him 
         for the next

flower
     Women saved
        a pretty thing: Truth:

“a good to the heart” 
     It all comes down
        to the family

“We have a lovely
     finite parentage
        mineral

vegetable
     animal”
        Nearby dark wood —

I suddenly heard
     the cry
        my mother’s

where the light
     pissed past
        the pistillate cone

how she loved
     closed gentians
        she herself

so closed
     and in this to us peace
        the stabbing

pen
     friend did it
        close to the heart

pierced the woods
     red
        (autumn?)

Sometimes it’s a pleasure
     to grieve
        or dump

the leaves most brilliant
     as do trees
        when they’ve no need

of an overload
     of cellulose
        for a cool while

Nobody, nothing
     ever gave me
        greater thing

than time
     unless light
        and silence

which if intense
     makes sound
        Unaffected

by man
     thin to nothing lichens
        grind with their acid

granite to sand
     These may survive
        the grand blow-up

the bomb
     When visited
        by the poet

From Newcastle on Tyne
     I neglected to ask
        what wild plants

have you there
     how dark
        how inconsiderate

of me
     Well I see at this point
        no pelting of police

with flowers
     no uprooted gaywings
        bishop’s cup

white bunchberry
     under aspens
        pipsissewa

(wintergreen)
     grass of parnassus
        See beyond —

ferns
     algae
        water lilies

Scent
     the simple
        the perfect

order
     of that flower
        water lily

I see no space-rocket
     launched here
        no mind-changing

acids eaten
     one sort manufactured
        as easily as gin

in a bathtub
     Do feel however
        in liver and head

as we drive
     towards cities
        the change

in church architecture —
     now it’s either a hood
        for a roof

pulled down to the ground
     and below
        or a factory-long body

crawled out from a rise
     of black dinosaur-necked
        blower-beaked

smokestack-
     steeple
        Murder in the Cathedral’s

proportions
     Do we go to church
        No use

discussing heaven 
     HJ’s father long ago
        pronounced human affairs

gone to hell
     Great God —
         what men desire! —

the scientist: a full set
     of fishes
        the desire to know

Another: to talk beat
     act cool
        release    la’go

So far out of flowers
     human parts found
        wrapped in newspaper

left at the church
     near College Avenue
        More news: the war

which “cannot be stopped”
     ragweed pollen
        sneezeweed

whose other name
     Ambrosia
        goes for a community

Ahead — home town
     second shift steamfitter
        ran arms out

as tho to fly
     dived to concrete
        from loading dock

lost his head
     Pigeons
        (I miss the gulls)

mourn the loss
     of people
        no wild bird does

It rained
     mud squash
        willow leaves

in the eaves
     Old sunflower
        you bowed

to no one
     but Great Storm
        of Equinox

july 25/RUN

2.35 miles
47th ave, north/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
82 degrees
dew point: 73

So hot and thick outside this morning. And it’s only 8:30. Decided to end the run with a sprint up the final hill–the same hill I was sprinting up at the end of my runs in the winter except this time I was on the road and not the trail. Felt pretty good at the end. I should try a workout where I warm up for a few miles and then do some sprints.

Encountered mostly walkers and bikers, a few runners, some roller skiers. Saw some people heading up the hill from the rowing club. Had they just been rowing? I’d like to try that sometime. Heard some music coming out of a bike speaker but it was too quiet and distorted from the doppler effect for me to identify what the song or genre was, just tinny noise. Don’t remember hearing or seeing any birds or dogs or squirrels. No river. Quietly called “Watch out!” at a clueless pedestrian slowly walking across the road right in front of me, not looking at all (except at her phone). Don’t think she heard me. Ran on the gravel several times. Mostly level but in mounds at the edges. Scott says they will come through and clear it all off when they’ve done all the roads. I hope they do it before they open the river road back up to cars next week. I’ll miss the crunchy sound but not the uneven ground.

Birds!

While I don’t remember hearing any birds this morning, I did come across a tweet about birdsong mnemonics that inspired me to think about birds and how they sound. Here are a few links I want to revisit:

And, here are 2 bird poems, one just about birds, one about birdsong, both my Emily Dickinson:

A Bird, came down the Walk – (359)/ EMILY DICKINSON

A Bird, came down the Walk – 
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves 
And ate the fellow, raw, 

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall 
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. – 

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers, 
And rowed him softer Home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon, 
Leap, plashless as they swim. 

The Birds begun at Four o’clock —/ Emily Dickinson

The Birds begun at Four o’clock —
Their period for Dawn —
A Music numerous as space —
But neighboring as Noon —

I could not count their Force —
Their Voices did expend
As Brook by Brook bestows itself
To multiply the Pond.

The Listener – was not —
Except occasional man —
In homely industry arrayed —
To overtake the Morn —

Nor was it for applause —
That I could ascertain —
But independent Ecstasy
Of Universe, and Men –  

By Six, the Flood had done —
No Tumult there had been
Of Dressing, or Departure —
And yet the Band – was gone —

The Sun engrossed the East —
The Day Resumed the World —  controlled
The Miracle that introduced
Forgotten, as fulfilled.

july 24/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
72 degrees
humidity: 78%/ dew point: 67

Hot again this morning. So crowded on the river road! So many runners going so fast that I wondered if there was some event going on. Listened to a playlist and didn’t think about any poetry or pay attention to much around me except all the runners and bikers I needed to avoid. Ran faster than I wanted on the second mile because a runner who I was passing decided to speed up just as I approached. Finished the run by listening to Demi Lovato’s “Sorry, Not Sorry” as I ran up the hill near the Welcoming Oaks. Running back through the neighborhood, the next song that came on Spotify was Hailee Steinfeld’s “Hell nos and Headphones.” Wow.

Finished watching the 1981 “Clash of the Titans” with Scott. I remember seeing it in a theater in North Carolina when it first came out. I was 7. The special effects are very bad, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie this time–loved seeing Maggie Smith as a vengeful Thetis. I started thinking about Medusa and how her gaze turns anyone/thing that looks into her eyes to stone. And then I started thinking about how my gaze does that to people too–because my central vision is almost gone and I have an increasingly bigger blind spot in the middle of my field of vision, when I look at people’s faces or into their eyes they often look like unmoving objects–I can’t see facial gestures–no smiles or frowns or eyebrows raised, and I can’t make eye contact. In a way, they turn to stone. I’d like to explore the Medusa myth some more and see if I can do something with it.

Thinking about vision and eyes a lot this week. Here’s a poem from 1925 I first encountered on twitter, then found online at Poetry Foundation:

Eyes/ Laura Riding Jackson

Imagine two clouds shot together by the sunset,
One river-blue,
One like a white cloth passed through a purple wine,
Dripping and faintly dyed,
Whirling centrifugally away toward the night
And later halved and rounded by the moon;
Rolled like blue butter-balls
In the palms of the moon’s hands
And rimmed elliptically with almost-white moon-stuff,
The moon’s particular godmother gift.
Some nearly impossible vision like this
Is necessary for the mood of my eyes.

Formally announced by my eyebrows,
Sad squires of my eyes,
Preciously fitted into two fine skin purses—
Two rose petals might fashion them—
So firmly, gently guarded,
Yet so free to roll a little
In each socket,
In each pocket,
Attended by the drawn regiments of my lashes,
These my head’s hair’s farthest fallen,
Wayward strayed for the love of my eyes,
With only a runaway’s last inheritance of curl
Lifting the final rite of this ceremony of presentation:
Sight is there soul of charity.
when the feet are tired,
When joy is caught in the full throat,
Sight is the good Samaritan,
Wandering to the last horizon
Or staying at home to laugh in joy’s place.
Though the trouble be none of its won,
When grief comes like a beggar to my eyelids,
Sight throws it pennies,
Sight throws it tears,
Though for the minute it rob itself,
Though for the minute it blind itself.

Exegetes of the tongue—
Love’s best inquirers
And courteous heads of hate,
Yet meanwhile not deposing
The immediate service of seeing
Or the darling self-denial of sleep—
My eyes, my eyes,
Patrons of light and dark!

Busy, ever busy,
If I have no other errands for it,
Yet sight keeps turning the looking-machine,
Always sitting quietly aside—-
The self-appointed and voluntary philosophy of me,
My ironic interpreter of things,
Smiling behind the bodily ruse
Of my amused, amused eyes.
Or, if the eyes fail,
If the optical bodies of sight die,
Sight still lives while I live,
Sight is immortal in me,
Free of the bond of outward vision—-
The inner sense of life,
The living-looking.
Death is the only blindness.

july 23/RUN

3.1 miles
47th st loop
69 degrees

Ran almost two hours later because I wanted to work more in the morning and because the humidity was 100% at 8 am. Running at 10 was much better, I imagine. Sunny with lots of shade, calm. No turkeys but I did see my shadow briefly. Saw a biker and one graceful rollerblader moving so quickly and smoothly, swinging his arm like an Olympic speeed skater.

delight of the day

Nearing Edmund, past becketwood on the part near turkey hollow, I heard a truck approaching from behind with some squealing kids. As it passed me, driving very slowly, I noticed a few heads just poking out of the red truck’s bed. It turned up the next street. Nearing the end of my loop, almost back to becketwood, I encountered it again, parked in front of house, the kids yelling out delightedly, “We drove around the block in the back of the truck! We drove around the block in the back of the truck!” Such delight. Such cute, earnest, high-pitched voices! Oh, to be that free of cynicism and able to find joy in such a small but perfect moment!

Before heading out for the run, I memorized another poem, the third in my vision series:

I Look Up From My Book and Out on the World Through Reading Glasses/ Diane Seuss.

The world, italicized.

Douglas Fir blurs into archetype,
a black vertical with smeared green arms.
The load of pinecones at the top,
a brown smudge which could be anything: a wreath
of moths, a rabbit strung up
like a flag.

All trees are trees.
Death to modifiers.

A smear of blue, a smear of gold that could be a haystack,
a Cadillac, or a Medal of Honor without a neck to hang upon.

I know the dog killed something today, but it’s lost in fog.
A small red splotch in a band of monochromatic green.
And now, the mountain of bones, is only a mountain capped
with snow.

It’s a paradise of vagaries.
No heartache.
Just and eraser smudge,
smoke-gray.

All forms, the man wrote, tend toward blur.

I love this poem because it does a great job of capturing how I see the world sometimes–not through reading glasses, but through my diseased eyes. Sometimes the world looks italicized, slanted, not quite straight, off-kilter. And sometimes trees are nothing but the classic form of a tree — a brown trunk with leaves. Colors, when I can see them, are sometimes only smudges and smears and slashes. It’s all vague or just barely formed–the idea of the river instead of the actual view of an in-focus river. And it often feels like I’m in a haze or a daze or a fog. This is not upsetting to me; it’s more dreamy and calm and soft. Often the sharpness of the forms dependents on the quality of the light–gray days make everything look even fuzzier, bright sunny blue days make it all clearer, with more edges.

A few hours after returning home, I recorded myself reciting the poem. I just learned it this morning so I don’t know it by heart yet. Even as the pauses in this recording make me a little uncomfortable, I like how they demonstrate the moments of my forgetting and then remembering.

I Look Up From My Book, July 23